The Longest Yard (1974)

Burt Reynolds seeks redemption in the last place he ever imagined in this classic comedy!

For former football player Paul “Wrecking” Crewe, he once had it all. That is, until he was caught shaving points and had ended his career. When he grows tired of Melissa controlling him, he decides to ditch her all while stealing her car. He gets busted and finds himself serving an 18-month sentence at Citrus State Prison. His reputation as a former football star and now disgraced washed up player has given him lots of rivals while in prison, especially heard guard Captain Knauer, the leader of the prison’s football team, who forces Crewe not to coach the guards much to the chagrin of Warden Hazen.

When Warden Hazen has learned that Crewe has been ticking off the guards and a few fellow prisoners, he comes up with an idea that could help both of them. Crewe is asked to form a team of convicts to face off against the guards in an exhibition football game. Reluctant, Crewe agrees and forms the most eccentric team of players and as they prepare for the game against the guards, they merge a bond they never imagined ever forming. What will happen on the day of the big game?

One of the best classic football movies today, this movie makes the most out of Burt Reynolds, who takes on the legendary role of Paul Crewe, a disgraced former football star who finds redemption after being forced into a situation he never imagined having to deal with. On the downside, he must deal with prisoners who can’t stand him or disrespect him for his point-shaving. And yet, as they play, the prisoners see something in him and with a chance to go after the guards, they are rearing to go do what any prisoner would want to do to a mean guard who overstep their authority.

While Eddie Albert plays the manipulative Warden Hazen, it is Ed Lauter’s Captain Knauer who takes the cake as the guards’ captain and quarterback. Knauer doesn’t like Crewe much, but his cohorts are far worse. The guards, save for Ed Lauter, consist of real-life former footballers such as Joe Kapp as Walking Boss, Ray Nitchske as big bad Bogdanski and future Smokey and the Bandit co-star Mike Henry as the more level-headed Rasmussen. The cons also have their own share of gridiron stars including Pervis Atkins, Sonny Sixkiller as Indian, and Ernie Wheelwright as Spooner.

The last hour of the film focuses on the game itself and it brings to mind loads of classic scenes and one-liners courtesy of the cast. Who can forget when Richard Kiel’s Samson clotheslines a guardsman, leading to the repetitive “I think I broke his [censored] neck” and probably one the greatest plays in football cinema history where Crewe decides to let the team allow one specific guard through and well, what happens next is completely unforgettable and so funny it happens not once, but twice!

Adam Sandler would do a remake in 2005 with Reynolds now taking over the role of Nate Scarborough, played in this one by Michael Conrad and while it has nods to the original, Sandler does manage to make it his own as well. Britain would also do its own remake, Mean Machine, that original producer Albert S. Ruddy was involved in with Vinnie Jones in the Reynolds role of the ex-footballer looking for redemption.

The Longest Yard is a classic with Burt Reynolds in one of his best performances. The football game is the highlight of the film all supported by a great cast. A must see!

WFG RATING: A+

A Paramount Pictures production. Director: Robert Aldrich. Producer: Albert S. Ruddy. Writer: Tracy Keenan Wynn. Cinematography: Joseph F. Biroc. Editing: Michael Luciano.

Cast: Burt Reynolds, Eddie Albert, Ed Lauter, Michael Conrad, James Hampton, Harry Caeser, John Steadman, Charles Tyner, Anitra Ford, Mike Henry, Jim Nicholson, Ray Nitchske, Joe Kapp, Richard Kiel, Pepper Martin, Sonny Sixkiller, Sonny Shroyer, Pervis Atkins, Ernie Wheelwright.

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